Wrestling sends seven to NCAA Championship


Abby Fullenkamp

ABBY FULLENKAMP Senior Nate Rotert wrestles against NDSU Cordell Eaton during the 197-pound bout Feb. 16. Rotert defeated Eaton with a decision of 3-1. SDSU is sending seven wrestlers to the NCAA Championships in Cleveland, Ohio.

Trenton Abrego

For the first time in program history, the South Dakota State wrestling team is sending seven wrestlers to the NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships in Cleveland, Ohio. It’s the highest mark in school history.

Four of the seven NCAA qualifiers for the Jacks are ranked, meaning they are one of the top 16 wrestlers in their weight class. Here are recaps for those wrestlers.

Junior Seth Gross
133-weight class
No. 1 seed
24-1 record this season

At the Big 12 Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma, Gross continued his stellar season at the 133-weight class. Gross defeated Kaid Brock of Oklahoma State 8-5.

In the first round, Gross will face off against a familiar Big 12 in Matt Schmitt of West Virginia. Gross has defeated Schmitt twice this season, including a 10-2 major decision in the Big 12 semifinals.

“It all starts with the first match, he’s going to be familiar with all of his opponents,” head coach Chris Bono said.

If history repeats itself, Gross will be on track to face either Mitch McKee of Minnesota or Josh Finesilver of Duke.

“He just has to make sure he goes out and does what he does,” Bono said. “If he does that, he’ll have no problem.”

Senior Luke Zilverberg
157-weight class
No. 13 seed
30-8 record this season

Zilverberg came up with a third-place finish at the Big 12 Tournament where he defeated Chase Straw of Iowa State 2-0.

During the first round, No. 13 seeded Zilverberg will face off against Justin Staudenmayer of Brown. The two have met previously this year at the Midlands Invitational and Zilverberg came out with a 5-0 decision.

If Zilverberg knocks off Staudenmayer, he will likely wrestle against the fourth-seeded Joshua Shields of Arizona State. The two have faced off twice this season. Shields won 4-0 in both matches.

“He needs to make sure he gets his attacks off,” Bono said. “He needs to just let it fly; he’s a senior with nothing to lose.”

Senior David Kocer
174-weight class
No. 11 seed
23-6 record this season

Kocer placed second at the Big 12 Tournament and lost to Taylor Lujan of Northern Iowa 6-3 in the championship match. Lujan is the No. 8 seed at the tournament.

Kocer will face up against Kimball Bastian of Utah Valley. The previous matchup between the two came during the January 12 dual when Kocer won 6-2.

“Dave is consistent, we know what we are going to get from Kocer,” Bono said.

The road to the 174-weight championship looks to be dangerous. Zahid Valencia of Arizona State is undefeated and the top-seeded wrestler at the weight class, but Mark Hall of Penn State and Daniel Lewis of Missouri are both undefeated too.

“Dave can win, he can beat all those guys,” Bono said of the unranked kids. “It’s just a matter of stringing together five good matches.”

Senior Nate Rotert
197-weight class
No. 8 seed
28-4 record this season

Rotert continued his impressive final season in an SDSU singlet and got first place at the Big 12 Tournament. Rotert defeated Jake Smith of West Virginia in the final.

It will be the fourth time Rotert will appear as an NCAA qualifier.

“Physically, it’s the first time he’s completely healthy going in (to the NCAA Tournament),” Bono said.

In the first round and Rotert will face off against Hunter Ritter of Wisconsin, who is 26-9 on the season. The two haven’t wrestled each other, but Rotert is 12-3 against common opponents while Ritter owns a 9-5 mark.

“Tough first match against Wisconsin,” Bono said of Ritter. “Very defensively, low-scoring matches, hard to score on.”

If Rotert takes care of Ritter, he will go onto face either the ninth-seed Preston Weigel of Oklahoma State, unranked Randall Diabe of

Appalachian State or Kyle Conel of Kent State.

The three unseeded wrestlers for the Jackrabbits are freshman 125-pounder Connor Brown and sophomores Henry Pohlmeyer at the 141-weight class and Martin Mueller in the 184-weight class.

The first session of the NCAA Wrestling Championships will begin at 11 a.m. March 15 and can be viewed on ESPNU.